Chicago synagogues on alert

| October 29, 2010

Synagogues in Chicago were put on alert Friday after suspicious packages shipped from Yemen to Chicago religious institutions spurred an international response, although they tested negative for explosive material.

A U.S. official said authorities were investigating whether the string of suspicious packages was a dry run for a plot to send bombs through the mail.

Meanwhile, FBI spokesman Ross Rice says two of the suspicious packages found on cargo planes bound for the U.S. were addressed to "religious institutions" in Chicago. One was a synagogue, said a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.

U.K. officials discovered that a toner cartridge on a UPS cargo plane bound Chicago for had been manipulated and found wires attached to it and white powder. The plane was stopped in London. Tests on the device came back negative for explosives, according to a law enforcement official who also spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation.

Rice says there are no identifiable or specific threats to the Chicago area, but since two of the suspicious packages were addressed to religious institutions in Chicago, he says all churches, synagogues and mosques in the area should be vigilant.

The nature of the packages was not immediately known.

Rice said religious institutions should be watchful for unsolicited or unexpected packages from overseas locations.

Linda Haase of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago said the group was notified early Friday and is "taking appropriate precautions." She said an alert has been sent to all synagogues.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was also investigating reports of suspicious packages on board two UPS cargo flights that landed Friday at Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey and Philadelphia International Airport, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said. The NYPD also confirmed to Fox News Channel that they were investigating a suspicious package on a UPS truck in Queens, N.Y.

The searches were conducted, but no explosives were found. All the packages believed to be suspicious came from Yemen and were being sent via UPS.

Yemen is the home of the al-Qaida branch that claimed responsibility for an attempted bombing of a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas.

Sources spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.

Aviation officials say Chicago airport security personnel have been alerted to the investigation.

Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman Karen Pride says she can't talk specifically about any stepped-up security efforts or what security teams have been told. She will only say the airports are aware of the situation.

She said the FBI is taking the lead on the investigation.

Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Kristin Lee says the planes landed safely and are being searched by law enforcement.

Meanwhile, Officials for FedEx say the company has confiscated a suspicious package in Dubai that was shipped from Yemen and is cooperating with the FBI.

Memphis-based FedEx Corp. has embargoed all shipments from Dubai indefinitely. Company spokeswoman Sandra Munoz said Friday she could not estimate how many packages might be involved or discuss what was suspicious about the package.

She said the package originated in Yemen but referred all further questions to the FBI.

Otherwise, Munoz said, FedEx operations were running normally.

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Category: Synagogue/Jewish Security